Clonakilty expat’s plan is to come full circle
Wild Geese: Kate Crowley, Brisbane, Australia
“I think we will always move home. We have a strong tie to Clonakilty and the community there,” says Kate Crowley
Even after five years living in Australia, it’s clear that Kate Crowley has strong ties to her home town. The Clonakilty native works as marketing and brand manager for engineering company Aecom while running her own business ElleBelle Fit – an online fitness clothing retailer.
While she liked the company and it was a great opportunity, she says she feels that financial regulation probably wasn’t for her.
An opportunity arose when a company she had previously worked for – SouthWestern – offered her a role back in Cork to manage a team in an outsourcing company in a client relationship role. “It was a change and a huge opportunity to take on a management role in my early twenties,” says Crowley. “I managed a team in Ireland and Poland for a number of years.”
In early 2011 Crowley and her then boyfriend (now husband) Paul Dillon made the decision to move to Australia. Dillon is a civil engineer and the downturn in the construction industry here meant that work had dried up for him.
“We were faced with the decision of whether to go back to London, try somewhere else in Europe or head out to Australia. We choose Australia, initially thinking of Melbourne,” says Crowley.
“It took us between six and 12 months to settle in. We are used to coming from Clonakilty – a small town with a big community feel. It was foreign to us to know no one. We were forced out of our comfort zone and made more effort to make friends and get a better appreciation of the culture,” she says.
After a year or so, they began to share a house with friends from home nicknamed the “Clonakilty Hostel” as siblings and friends arrived to stay.
“We regret that we didn’t take a portrait photo of everyone who stayed on our couch from Clonakilty over the years,” she laughs. “Often we didn’t have enough pots and pans to cook for the numbers of people!”
Recent reports of drunken and disorderly behaviour by the Irish in Australia are, Crowley believes, limited to backpackers rather than professionals.
“Maybe some young people who are just in Australia to have a good time can be a little unreliable but in my experience, professional Irish people are well-respected and are known here as hard workers.”
Initially Crowley took her time to settle in. Prior to emigrating, the couple and some friends had established an events management company following a successful fundraising effort for injured rugby player Stuart Mangan, who subsequently passed away following complications from a spinal injury in 2009.
The event management group had then successfully organised the Clonakilty Waterfront Festival and Crowley had worked remotely on the marketing of some events from Brisbane.
“I wanted to do more marketing. In June 2011, I took a job in Aecom – one of the biggest engineering companies in the world where I am now marketing and brand manager for Queensland and the Northern Territories,” says Crowley. “I’ve wanted to do this since role I started in Aecom and they are supporting me to do it on a part-time basis while I also run ElleBelle Fit,” she says of her online business established in 2015.
Crowley is currently working with Australian government departments and private companies as part of the Diversity in Infrastructure industry group examining actions to promote gender diversity in the industry including how to recruit and retain more women.
She works on her own business in the evenings and one or two full days a week.
“I do calls with suppliers throughout the day and manage the freelancers who work for me in areas such as video editing. My sister Eva also works for the business as marketing executive from Cork so I’ll FaceTime her.”
In her downtime, she works out and is trying her hand at meditation.
“I’ve a great network of friends here so one day a week I plug out and unwind. I like to travel a lot – up to my husband who’s currently working on a major road project in northern Queensland, spending time with my mother who works as a nurse in Melbourne and browsing the weekend markets in Brisbane.”
While Crowley says she loves the lifestyle and would definitely recommend Brisbane’s opportunities, it seems the couple’s hearts are still in Co Cork. “I think we will always move home. We have a strong tie to Clonakilty and the community there. We both said when we got back we want to go home to Clonakilty, rather than to a city, so we need to look at the career prospects and I’m hopefully building a business with ElleBelle Fit that can allow me to work from there on our eventual return.”